New safety plans are biggest step forward for cars since the seatbelt
But will pressure from manufacturers weaken measures? Our RSA expert takes a closer look
Almost nine years since the last update to vehicle safety regulations, the European Commission has published a large tranche of transport policy proposals known as the 'Third Mobility Package'.
It includes some significant measures to improve road safety in the EU.
The most significant element includes a set of new safety measures for cars, vans and trucks.
The hope is that all of these features will be mandatory under EU vehicle safety regulations.
Proven lifesaving technology such as intelligent speed assistance and lane departure avoidance will no longer be optional extras but a basic requirement.
The measures are expected to come into force on all new vehicles from 2021 onwards.
The announcement of the new technologies is a big deal. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has hailed it as the biggest step forward in road safety since the introduction of the seatbelt.
On behalf of the European Commission, the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK (TRL) examined the potential for these technologies to save lives.
It estimated they could prevent 25,000 deaths over the next 15 years.
The package includes:
1. Advanced emergency braking (cars)
2. Alcohol interlock installation facilitation (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
3. Drowsiness and attention detection (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
4. Distraction recognition/prevention (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
5. Event (crash) data recorder (cars and vans)
6. Emergency stop signal (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
7. Full-width frontal occupant protection crash test - improved seatbelts (cars and vans)
8. Head impact zone enlargement for pedestrians and cyclists - safety glass in case of crash (cars and vans)
9. Intelligent speed assistance (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
10. Lane keeping assist (cars, vans)
11. Pole-side impact occupant protection (cars, vans)
12. Reversing camera or detection system (cars, vans, trucks, buses)
13. Tyre pressure monitoring system (vans, trucks, buses)
14. Vulnerable road user detection and warning on front and side of vehicle (trucks and buses)
15. Vulnerable road user improved direct vision from driver's position (trucks and buses)
Two technologies in particular could have a huge impact. Advanced emergency braking technology automatically slows down and stops the vehicle if it detects another one, pedestrian or cyclist in front.
Intelligent speed assistance communicates the current speed limit using satellite and speed sign recognition and helps keep the vehicle within the posted limit.
Speeding is a contributory factor in a third of fatal crashes in this country so such a measure could have a significant positive impact.
The commission is also proposing enhancing the need for manufacturers to design better visibility into trucks and include sensors to the front and side so drivers can see cyclists and pedestrians more easily.
While the commission has announced the new package, there are more hurdles to clear. To make it happen it's vital member states and the European Parliament, specifically MEPs, give their backing and do not yield to pressure from car manufacturers, who, according to the ETSC, are already attempting to weaken parts of the proposal.
As we look to close the gap between Ireland and the safest countries in the EU, the rollout of these 15 new safety technologies would help us greatly in achieving this goal. Ireland for its part must add its weight to the push to get these measures made mandatory.